IACS Lunch and Breakfast Program….goes above and beyond in keeping our students healthy!
I hope you will take a minute to read the article, Michelle Obama’s Living Legacy and School Nutrition written by Karen Drake, IACS Food Service Director. In the article Karen outlines the amazing efforts put forth by her and her team to provide healthy, environmentally aware nutrition to our school community. From providing foods of high nutritional value, to becoming members of the Farm to School Program, to on-site gardening, she and the staff certainly deserve our praise and thanks for their efforts on behalf of our students.
Michelle Obama’s Living Legacy and School Nutrition
Many young Americans stated that they did not vote because they believe their vote doesn’t matter or that politics isn’t relative to their lives. Do elected officials really have a tangible and direct impact on our lives? Well, if you participate in the school breakfast or lunch program or have attended a school wide social event then yes, your life has been directly impacted.
On December 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The intent of this law was to improve the overall health and well-being of children primarily through good nutrition. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, developed new guidelines for the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. The new guidelines raised nutrition standards and improved the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million students who participated in school meal programs across America.
Did you know that IACS participates in the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs? IACS meets or exceeds all of the components of these new nutrition standards which include the following key components:
Offer fruits and vegetables every day. The new regulations ensure that a variety of fruits and vegetables are offered during lunch. IACS exceeds this regulation by offering fresh fruits daily and fresh raw vegetables at least 2 times per week with the main entrée. Alternative meal choices including, garden, chef, and tuna salads, low-fat ham or turkey and cheese on whole wheat roll and fresh fruit yogurt parfait are also offered daily.
- More whole-grain foods. All grains are wholegrain rich.
- Only low-fat milk (1%) and fat-free milk varieties are offered.
- Less saturated fat and salt. Manufactures have had to change their recipes to accommodate the new reduced salt and saturated fat regulations. These changes were made with minimal impact to taste while improving the nutritional quality.
- Drink more water. Free water is to be made available where meals are served. In addition to water bubblers, IACS offers free spring water to all student. Water coolers are located in the cafeteria as well as throughout the building. During the warmer months, IACS serves fruit infused ice water.
- Revised portion sizes. School meals must meet children’s calorie needs, based on their age. The goal is to increase fruit and vegetables (taking up ½ the plate) while reducing meat/meat alternative and grains. USDA’s Choose My Plate website has an abundance of nutrition information for analyzing and tracking caloric intake. Check out the Super Tracker or MyPlate’s 10 Tips Series for more information. IACS understands that sometimes recommended portions may not satisfy every student’s hunger. Students are allowed to take additional fruit and veggies at no charge and are also welcome to purchase a second entrée for a nominal price.
- Stronger local wellness programs. Foods offered at school events beyond the meal programs are also regulated. The IACS Wellness Policy was revised to ensure that foods offered at school wide events maintain the spirit of making good nutrition a priority. This includes, foods and beverages sold in vending machines as well as snacks sold during lunch. Go to IACS Wellness to view the details of this policy.
In 2010, Mrs. Obama launched the Let’s Move! Campaign. “…Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years; giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices; providing healthier foods in our schools; ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food; and, helping children become more physically active.” This campaign reached well beyond the school meal programs. For example, First Lady Michelle Obama, along with local school children, planted a garden on the South Lawn of the White House sparking a national conversation around gardening and eating locally grown fresh produce. A national school farm and farm to school movement followed.
In 2015, IACS became members of the Massachusetts Farm to School Harvest of the Month Program. Through this program, IACS students enjoyed locally grown produce for breakfast and lunch. Fresh produce was purchased from Griggs Farm, Gaudette Farm, Dragon Fly Farm of MA and Kimball’s Fruit Stand Farm of NH which included cherry tomatoes, lettuce, apples, pears, a variety of award winning squash and more.
IACS parent, Bernadette Baird, along with other volunteers, were able to harvest and donate 80 pounds of apples to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank from the apple trees located on IACS property. Additionally some of these delicious apples were served to IACS students during lunch. Led by IACS parent, Natalie Kelsey, the Garden Club has continually grown the school garden. Alumni Marc Prince, donated a Garden Tower to IACS. The Garden Tower grows plants vertically, enabling you to grow 50 plants in a very small space. These programs have the potential to grow but only if more volunteers come forward.
It is safe to assume that most people would agree that reducing childhood disease through good nutrition and increased physical activity with a goal of improving overall health and well-being is a good thing. It is equally safe to assume that what role government should play in this varies widely depending on one’s political beliefs. As the IACS Food Service Director, I have seen firsthand many benefits of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Students are eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. School breakfast and lunch participation has continually increased. Manufactures have found ways to improve the nutritional quality of foods without compromising taste. Nationally, public awareness regarding good nutrition as well as access to it has increased. For the first time in decades, childhood obesity rates are declining. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is just one example of how laws change our lives. Voting does matter! A true democracy relies on each of us to participate.